Sen. Wiener introduces zoning reform to allow more housing near transpo hubs, job centers

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San Francisco – Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) announced the introduction of Senate Bill 50: the More HOMES Act (Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, Equity, and Stability).

SB 50 creates new zoning standards for the construction of housing near job centers and public transportation, while protecting against the displacement of renters and vulnerable communities living in those areas. SB 50 eliminates hyper-low-density zoning near transit and job centers, thus legalizing apartment buildings in these locations so that more people can live near transit and near where they work. It also reduces or eliminates minimum parking requirements for new developments.

SB 50 will help relieve California’s acute housing shortage (currently a deficit of 3.5 million homes), make housing more affordable, increase the supply of low-income housing, and reduce pressure to create more sprawl and build in wildfire zones. The bill will also reduce carbon emissions by allowing more people to live near transit and near where they work.

SB 50 is modeled on SB 827, which Senator Wiener introduced earlier this year and which did not advance. Since SB 827’s demise, Senator Wiener has worked with a broad coalition of stakeholders to recraft the bill, in order to protect vulnerable communities.

“We must take bold steps now to address our severe housing crisis and reduce our carbon footprint,” said Senator Wiener. “California’s housing shortage hurts our most vulnerable communities, working families, young people, our environment, and our economy. It also increases homelessness. For too long we have created sprawl by artificially limiting the number of homes that are built near transit and job centers. As a result of this restrictive zoning in urbanized areas, people are forced into crushing commutes, which undermines our climate goals, and more and more Californians are living in wildfire zones. As educational and economic opportunities become increasingly concentrated in and near urban areas, we must ensure all of our residents are able to access these opportunities. I am excited work with a diverse coalition to spur the development of more housing for all income levels while protecting vulnerable communities and ensuring we do more to address climate change.”

SB 50 is supported by San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Emeryville Mayor John Bauters, and El Cerrito Mayor Gabriel Quinto, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has made positive statements regarding the direction of the bill. SB 50 is also supported by the State Building and Construction Trades Council (which opposed SB 827) and the California Apartment Association and is sponsored by California YIMBY (please see bottom of release for statements from mayors and organizations).

In addition to Senator Wiener, SB 50 is co-authored by a diverse and bi-partisan array of legislators, including: Senators Anna Caballero (D- Salinas), Ben Hueso (D- San Diego), John Moorlach (R- Costa Mesa), and Nancy Skinner (D- Berkeley), and Assemblymembers Autumn Burke (D- Inglewood), Ash Kalra (D- San Jose), Kevin Kiley (R- Rocklin), Evan Low (D- Campbell), Robert Rivas (D- Hollister), Phil Ting (D- San Francisco), and Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland).

California is experiencing an unprecedented housing shortage and affordability crisis.

According to the California Housing and Community Development Department, the lack of new housing construction in California has compounded over the last several decades into a shortage of 3.5 million homes. This shortage harms California’s workers and families. They feel the results of this shortage in the form of exorbitant rents and the highest home purchase prices in the nation. Excessive competition for limited housing supply is also driving a statewide epidemic of displacement, evictions, and homelessness.

California’s failure to allow for enough housing near job centers and public transportation is undermining the state’s climate goals and increasing wildfire risk. By not increasing density around public transportation and near jobs, local governments push residents into longer commutes, leading to greater air pollution. A November report from the California Air Resources Board explains that “while positive gains have been made to improve the alignment of transportation, land use, and housing policies with state goals, the data suggest that more and accelerated action is critical for public health, equity, economic, and climate success.” Additionally, a recent federal report indicates that governments are not doing nearly enough to mitigate the effects of climate change and especially greenhouse gas emissions. As we look at the biggest contributors of greenhouses gases in California, private vehicles remain at the top. Already we are seeing the economic, environmental, and human health impacts that climate change is inflicting on California. The recent wildfires have claimed thousands of homes, displaced thousands of families, and reduced air quality throughout the state.

Current state law leaves most zoning and land use decisions to local governments, and includes no density standards around public transportation and job centers. Due to a lack of adequate and enforceable statewide standards, most California cities are still operating under outdated and highly restrictive zoning ordinances—frequently banning apartment buildings entirely—that make it difficult or impossible to build multi-family dwellings.

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